Becoming principal of Multicultural Arts High School, Maria Amador was tasked with a very important responsibility: rebuilding the school’s identity.
Multicultural Arts School (MAS) is one of four smaller schools within the Little Village Lawndale High School Campus in the South Lawndale neighborhood, and previously had a reputation as the “worst” school on campus. There was a severe lack of pride among the students. When she became principal of MAS, Amador was the school’s third principal in three years.
This didn’t discourage her. “When I take on a challenge, I am committed to it. If the loss of identity was a concern, then we’re going back to our roots, and we’re going to find it,” she said.
Amador began her mission by revisiting and reworking the school’s founding mission.
“I worked with teachers to develop our five core values as a family and made a hashtag: #MASpride, #MASorgullo. Everyone uses it.”
And with teachers’ input, the meaning of MAS pride was established: “P is for prepared. R is for respectful. I is imaginative. D is determined. And E is engaged.”
Now when you walk the halls of MAS, these words are posted throughout the hallways, reminding students of what it means to be a part of the MAS community.
Amador also tasked her students with the challenge of updating the school logo; the new design was created by a former graduate, capturing the artistic aspect of the school.
But for Amador, the work is not quite finished. “We recently partnered with a marketing company, and they’re going to revamp our logo a little bit. They’re also going to create videos with testimonials from students and teachers on what it means to be a MAS student.”
Being proud of where you come from is of great importance to Amador. When her parents immigrated from Mexico to the U.S., they did so to provide a better education for her and her siblings.
“My parents always instilled in us the value of education,” Amador explained. “We’ve taken advantage of the opportunity they provided for us and have not let them down.”
As a Latina, Amador recognizes the importance of a culturally relevant education in helping students embrace their background and feel a sense of belonging.
“I feel like the students in front of my teachers are just like me. They need to see people like them in power to know that they can be successful.”
Amador has been working with her teachers to develop resources for a more culturally relevant curriculum.
“It’s not just having a Cinco de Mayo or Dia de Los Muertos celebration. It’s not reading one short snippet from an African American author. Culturally relevant instruction should be embedded in the very culture of our school.”
MAS embraces the diversity students bring to the school and celebrates their individual identities.
Serving a large population of English as a Second Language (ESL) students who are also Diverse Learners, Amador collaborates with the principals of the other campuses to identify and maximize opportunities for student interests.
“Depending on where students’ English proficiency is when they enroll in school, we offer ESL level one, two and three, which are available across campus. All of my Diverse Learner teachers have their bilingual endorsement as well.”
Student interest is highly valued at MAS. “I’ve told my teachers we’re not just going to consider teacher recommendations for AP classes, we’re also calling on student interest,” she assured.
Amador also doesn’t just want arts to be in the school’s name but instead embed it in everything. She will be supporting her teachers through utilizing more arts instruction.
“Our students are able to participate in the arts through our theater program, which offers a dual-credit opportunity with Truman College, as well as a visual arts program. We also have partnerships with the National Museum of Mexican Art, Lyric Opera House, Steppenwolf and Goodman theatre.”
This upcoming school year, she will be hiring a music teacher and “over the course of the school year, teachers will be receiving more training on how to incorporate arts into the curriculum. We don’t just want these programs to come in through one or two classes.”
Amador is looking forward to seeing all of the seeds that have been planted sprout. She recognizes that rebuilding the school’s identity will not happen overnight. But with her direction, #MASpride, #MASorgullo will only continue to grow.
To learn more about #PrincipalPrideChi and Principal Appreciation Month, click here.